Death again stuns Monroe prison

  • By Eric Stevick and Scott North Herald Writers
  • Wednesday, June 1, 2011 12:01am
  • Local NewsMonroe

MONROE — A corrections officer who worked at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe was found dead in his car Sunday at a sea plane base at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station in Oak Harbor, officials said.

The Island County Coroner’s office said the man, 49, died from a self-inflicted guns

hot wound.

His death came as a shock to co-workers, Monroe Correctional Complex Superintendent Scott Frakes said.

Fellow officers said the man seemed fine during his Friday and Saturday shifts, Frakes said.

“There were no outward signs that he was troubled,” he said. “It’s not one of those situations where people saw signals.”

The officer was known for his positive outlook in the workplace.

Frakes spent time with the man’s widow and family members Monday. A memorial service will be planned at the prison. No date has been set.

The officer worked for the state Department of Corrections since 2002. He had retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after 22 years of service.

“He was a good officer, and he was very well respected,” corrections department spokeswoman Belinda Stewart said.

Frakes said it is hard to know what caused the officer to take his own life. The death came four months since his co-worker, corrections officer Jayme Biendl, was strangled while working at the reformatory chapel.

“He was friends with Jayme,” Frakes said. “There is no doubt that weighed heavily on him.”

Biendl, 34, was found in the reformatory sanctuary Jan. 29 with an amplifier cord wrapped around her neck several times. Convicted rapist Byron Scherf, who already is serving a life sentence, is accused of killing Biendl on Jan. 29. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

The officer who died this week was a past member of the prison’s honor guard. He previously worked in the prison kitchen and recently moved to the recreation center.

His death has been hard on the staff, but people are pulling together and taking care of each other, Frakes said.

“There are so many unanswered questions,” Frakes said. “People want to know. They want to make sense of things.”

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